How to keep pets warm in winter

Knowing how to keep pets warm in winter takes some effort on the part of humans

Knowing how to keep pets warm in winter takes some effort on the part of humans

Baby, it’s cold outside! Do not think dogs and cats are impervious to the cold because they aren’t. They may handle it better than humans because of their fur but they still need assistance when it comes to staying warm. How to keep pets warm in winter requires a bit of time and effort on the part of the humans who love them and are concerned about their well-being.

Some dogs are more tolerant of cold weather because of their breed, the amount of fur they possess and whether they are accustomed to the outdoors. Well-insulated, heavy-coated dogs such as Huskies, shepherds and Newfoundlands originated in cold climates and possess an under-the-skin layer of fat as well as thick coats. 

Dogs used to being outside grow a dense undercoat, which insulates the animal and safeguards it from the elements. However, indoor dogs and cats generally have thin coats thus less protection from the cold. Short-haired dogs should not be left outside for long periods of time when it is cold because they do not inherently have the same amount of protection as heavy-coated canines.

At highest risk are old dogs, puppies and kittens, who cannot tolerate frigid weather. They can easily develop hypothermia and die. 


When it is below 15 degrees Fahrenheit, bring your dogs and cats inside. When an animal is shivering that means it is cold.

Shelter for Dogs and Cats

Provide a warm, dry house for your outside pets. Insulate the area using straw. The good thing about straw it is allows animals to burrow. Cover the house with a tarp, which provides additional insulation and acts as a wind break. Surround the structure with bales of straw.

The opening to the house should face south or southeast. Put a flap over the doorway. Keep in mind if the structure is too spacious the dog or cat will not be able to keep itself warm. The space should be small enough it allows the animal to trap body heat, according to the Humane Society.

Put shredded newspapers or packing peanuts in a pillowcase and toss the case into the structure. If you live in an area that is really, really cold you should wallpaper the inner walls of the house using Mylar, which returns heat and animals can safely lie on it. 

The Humane Society advises against putting towels, folded newspapers or blankets in an outdoor shelter because these items absorb body heat and make the animal cold when lying on them. 

Food and Water 

Animals require a quarter more food daily in the winter months than in warm weather. Dogs and cats both need more nutrition when it is cold because this helps them generate and maintain body warmth. 

Outdoor animals particularly need more food during cold weather because trying to stay warm drains their energy reserves. The more food, the more energy. Give them foods containing essential fatty acids, which helps thicken their coat and allows them to acquire a fatty layer. 

Consider purchasing a solar-heated water bowl. This delays and sometimes altogether prevents water and food from freezing. Use deep, wide plastic containers, which are better than thin ones. When a housing structure is dry and well-insulated you can put food inside the space but situate the bowl away from the door.

If you put water inside the shelter it can get tipped over and make the housing unit colder than ever.  Put the water bowl close to the shelter and refresheng the water several times daily.


Paw pads, tips of ears and tails can become frostbitten. Do not treat frostbite with hot water. Bathe using warm water.


Pups and kittens should be kept inside. Put an electric heater or blanket in the whelping area.

If you are aware of a neglected animal, please report this to your local dog warden, the shelter or the ASPCA.